The mid-term elections of 2002 reflect a sea change in American electoral politics in which the Republican Party will dominate for a generation, says a prominent pollster.
Republicans’ precedent-setting victories Nov. 5 were “much more than President Bush getting out the vote in close Senate races,” says an analytical introduction to “The GOP Generation,” on the website of its author, pollster Scott Rasmussen.
“Building upon proprietary survey data … [the report] explains underlying issues, trends and other factors moving the nation to a lasting Republican majority,” said the analysis.
A couple of factors – national security and the war on terror – no doubt favored Bush and Republicans generally during the midterm elections. But Rasmussen told WorldNetDaily that other “institutional” changes were taking place that could lead the Grand Old Party into majority status for years to come, such as shifts in demographics and workplace habits.
And, data indicate, the president is playing excellent politics. For example, Democrats sought to capitalize on a sagging U.S. economy by blaming Bush and Republicans for a series of corporate scandals that allegedly sapped investor and consumer confidence. But Bush and the GOP instead were able to successfully counter those charges by tying victorious prosecution of the war on terror as one way to rebuild investor and consumer confidence. Since Republicans have traditionally fared better in matters of national security, the gambit worked.
“Quite frankly, most Americans are closer to Bush’s view, so it’s been a unifying factor for Republicans,” Rasmussen said. “One of the surprises in the data … was that the economy and war issues were intertwined, almost as a single issue. As international tensions rose, the economy suffered, so one of the best economic policies for the president to follow was to focus on national security problems.”
Still, Rasmussen said there are some potential problems for the new Republican majority in the future that will have to be finessed for the party to remain in control.
“I think the immigration issue is a potential explosive issue within the Republican majority,” he said.
Many Republicans favor strict border enforcement, reduced immigration and using U.S. troops to patrol the border. Others, including Bush, support granting amnesty to illegal immigrants and the establishment of temporary work permits for Mexican nationals seeking employment in the U.S.
Also, making inroads with minority voters remains a focus of the party, though conservatives fear that effort will lead to promises of new spending on old social programs.
Nevertheless, while admitting that “nothing is automatic,” Rasmussen said the data show that “if Bush does well in the next two years, it’s very difficult to envision a scenario where Democrats win back control of the House or Senate anytime soon.”
“What I see is that because of the performance of the president in the past couple of years, the Republicans are now truly a majority party, and it’s a lot deeper than I or other analysts first thought,” said Rasmussen.
There are also nationwide trends that support a widening GOP base. Besides controlling the U.S. House and Senate, Republicans also now control most governorships and state legislatures as well.
“That hasn’t happened all up and down the line since Hoover was in office,” said the pollster.
Before losing its majority in the 1994 midterm elections, Democrats controlled the House for 40 years.
Other factors hint at a longstanding Republican majority, the data indicate. For one, institutions that have traditionally favored the GOP are growing.
“The number of self-employed people is rising,” Rasmussen said, “and traditionally that group has been solidly Republican, just as unions have traditionally been solidly Democratic.”
Recent data suggest union numbers are shrinking, and though minority groups tend to favor the Democrats, some surveys after the Nov. 5 election showed that Republicans made greater-than-expected gains among minority voters.